In today’s fast-paced world, we often find ourselves overwhelmed and end up trying to multitask while driving. Two major concerns that compromise road safety are distracted driving and driving under the influence (DUI). In this blog post, we’ll explore and compare the risks associated with these behaviors. We’ll also discuss the importance of responsible driving and how a State College DUI attorney can help if you find yourself facing legal consequences.
What Constitutes Distracted Driving?
Everyone is guilty of distracted driving at one point or another, but most people don’t realize that distracted driving accounts for about 9% of all fatal accidents in the United States. Typically the first thing people think of when it comes to distracted driving is texting. However, distracted driving involves any activity that diverts a driver’s attention away from driving.
This includes but is not limited to:
- Talking on the phone
- Browsing the internet
- Taking photos or videos
- Changing the song
- Eating / drinking
- Plugging something into your GPS
Many states have implemented laws to combat distracted driving, but people proceed to drive distracted nonetheless because it doesn’t always receive the same level of attention as driving under the influence.
What Constitutes Driving Under the Influence?
Driving under the influence (DUI) refers to operating a vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs to a degree that renders the driver incapable of safely controlling the vehicle. Laws governing DUI vary from one jurisdiction to another, but they generally establish a legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit, often set at 0.08% in many places. A common misconception is that only alcohol consumption can lead to a DUI charge, but in reality, any substance (including marijuana or certain prescription medications) that impairs a driver’s faculties can result in legal consequences.
Taking a Look at the Facts
Both distracted driving and DUI pose significant risks on the road, and it’s crucial to understand the real-world statistics regarding the fatalities associated with these behaviors. DUI fatalities are 23% higher in 2021 than they were in 2016. Let’s take a look at some of the consequences of both behaviors:
Distracted Driving Stats:
- At least nine people are killed every day in crashes that involve a distracted driver (CDC)
- In 2019, over 3,100 people were killed in the United States due to distracted driving crashes (CDC)
- About 424,000 people were injured in distracted driver crashes in 2019 (CDC)
- In 2020, 13% of all motor vehicle crashes in the US involved distraction (NHTSA)
- 587 non occupants (pedestrians, etc) died in a crash from a distracted driver (CDC)
Drunk Driving Stats:
- In 2023, 37 people in the US die in car crashes involving an alcohol-impaired driver (CDC)
- More than 31% of all traffic related deaths are caused by alchohol impairment (NHTSA)
- Over 10,000 Americans are killed by drunk drivers per year (CDC)
- There were 13,384 fatalities caused by drunk driving crashes in 2021 (NHTSA)
While both distracted driving and drunk driving carry risks, it’s evident that drunk driving is likely the greater risk of the two behaviors. However, it’s essential to recognize that both are dangerous and should be avoided at all costs.
Law enforcement plays a pivotal role in detecting and punishing both drunk driving and distracted driving, and the punishments differ with each state. For drunk driving, officers use field sobriety tests, breathalyzers, and blood tests to determine a driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Law enforcement also employs various techniques to detect distracted driving, such as observation, video evidence, and cellphone usage records.
Typically, penalties for distracted driving may include fines, points on your license, and even license suspension for repeat offenses. DUI convictions can result in hefty fines, license suspension, mandatory alcohol education programs, and, in severe cases, imprisonment. In Pennsylvania, for instance, a first offense for distracted driving is $50 and is not recorded on the driver’s record. However, for a first offense DUI in Pennsylvania, it is a $300 fine, up t 6 months probation, alcohol highway safety school, and is recorded as a misdemeanor.
While both drunk driving and distracted driving are risky behaviors with legal consequences, DUI is undeniably associated with more severe punishments. However, it is essential to remember that the best course of action is to avoid both behaviors altogether because they are both harmful and carry their own set of negative consequences.
While the specific risks associated with each vary, it’s essential to recognize that both distracted driving and DUI are entirely preventable. The consequences can be severe, including injuries, fatalities, and legal penalties. Therefore, promoting awareness of these risks and encouraging responsible driving habits remains critical to enhancing road safety.
Below are some preventative measures that were created to stop distracted driving and DUIi:
- U drive. U text. U pay Campaign: distracted driving awareness effort supported by a $5 million national television, radio, and digital advertising campaign that runs from April 6-15 yearly
- Parents Are the Key Campaign: provides information and tools to help parents support their teens’ safe driving.
- One Text or Call Could Wreck It All Campaign: goal of this campaign is to raise awareness and get drivers to remember that one text or one call could wreck it all.
- Ride Share such as Uber and Lyft have decreased alcohol-related US traffic fatalities by 6.1% and reduced overall US traffic deaths by 4% (National Bureau Economic Research)
Preventing distracted driving and driving under the influence (DUI) requires approach that combines education, legislation, and individual responsibility. To combat distracted driving, we should be raising awareness through public education campaigns, stricter laws and penalties, and promoting the use of hands-free devices. For DUI prevention, enforcing strict laws and penalties for impaired driving is crucial. Sobriety checkpoints, designated drivers, and ride-share services can help individuals make safer choices when they’ve consumed alcohol or drugs.
Ultimately, the key lies in raising awareness, implementing effective legal measures, and fostering a culture of responsibility and making informed choices. Remember, the best way to stay safe is to always drive with your full attention, free from distractions or impairments.